NEW YORK — What seemed inevitable for the NHL has now become reality. The league canceled the first two weeks of regular season on Thursday, the second time games have been lost because of a lockout in seven years.
The initial announcement was made in a two-paragraph statement from the league. It isn’t clear if those games will be made up, allowing for a complete 82-game regular season, if a deal can be struck soon with the locked out players.
Unable to work out how to split up $3 billion in hockey-related revenues with the players’ association, the NHL wiped out games from Oct. 11 through Oct. 24.
“We were extremely disappointed to have to make today’s announcement,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. “The game deserves better, the fans deserve better, and the people who derive income from their connection to the NHL deserve better.
“This is not about ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ a negotiation,” Daly said. “This is about finding a solution that preserves the long-term health and stability of the league and the game. We are committed to getting this done.”
The union countered by saying the NHL forced the lockout onto the players.
“The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the NHL season is the unilateral choice of the NHL owners,” NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said in a statement. “If the owners truly cared about the game and the fans, they would lift the lockout and allow the season to begin on time while negotiations continue.
“A lockout should be the last resort in bargaining, not the strategy of first resort,” he added. “For nearly 20 years, the owners have elected to lock out the players in an effort to secure massive concessions. Nevertheless, the players remain committed to playing hockey while the parties work to reach a deal that is fair for both sides. We hope we will soon have a willing negotiating partner.”